NHL and NHLPA Working on 24-Team Conference-Based Playoff: Report

This format will see the top-four teams in each conference earn a bye in the play-in round

According to a report from Sportsnet hockey insider Elliotte Friedman on Wednesday, the National Hockey League and the NHL Players' Association are working on a 24-team conference-based playoff format that would hopefully take place this summer when, and if, the league returns to action this summer.

While these eight teams would earn an automatic spot in the 16-team playoff after the play-in round, Friedman says that they would participate in a three-game in-conference tournament to get some playing time.

The play-in round of the playoffs will feature a bracketed format, meaning that the five-seed will take on the 12-seed for the chance to play the four-seed, the six-seed will face the 11-seed to play the three-seed, the seven-seen battles the 10-seed to play the two-seed, and the eight and nine-seed will matchup for the chance to play the top-seed in the conference.

Here is how that playoff format would look in both conferences:

Eastern Conference:

5 - Pittsburgh Penguins vs. 12 - Montreal Canadiens

6 - Carolina Hurricanes vs. 11 - New York Rangers

7 - New York Islanders vs. 10 - Florida Panthers

8 - Toronto Maple Leafs vs. 9 - Columbus Blue Jackets


Western Conference:

5 - Edmonton Oilers vs. 12 - Chicago Blackhawks

6 - Nashville Predators vs. 11 - Arizona Coyotes

7 - Vancouver Canucks vs.  10 - Minnesota Wild

8 - Calgary Flames vs. 9 - Winnipeg Jets

Friedman also reports that the play-in round will be a best-of-five series, while the rest of the playoffs will be a best-of-seven series.

Sportsnet's Chris Johnston adds to Friedman's report that this proposal has not been finalized, and that this is more about how the 24-team system would work. Some of the other issues at hand that still need to be discussed include testing protocols, hub cities, visas and more.

Johnston also says that the NHLPA's executive board is scheduled to have a conference call on Thursday to discuss more return to play matters.

Check back for updates on this developing story.